Storj Labs is open for business. Tardigrade, Storj’s platform, is a decentralized cloud storage service and wants to challenge the likes of Amazon’s S3 Cloud Network.
If it works, data breaches like the 2017 Equifax personal information hack, could be next to impossible to pull-off. Better yet, the new business will pay you for your spare storage space.
We associate blockchain with Bitcoin. Cryptocurrency started using an encrypted public ledger broken into many pieces, or decentralized components, and then put back together with a private key. But its application continues to be applied in more exciting ways.
A decentralized cloud storage system, a form of decentralized technology similar to blockchain, encrypts data before being uploaded to the service and distributes each part globally. Storj breaks that data into 80 pieces, where only 30 of those parts are needed to create the original file. A hacker would need the key for each file, e.g., an individual’s information, as well as to compromise 30 distributed and random storage nodes; then, they would need to put it back together while decrypting each part. They would have to repeat the process for each subsequent file.
Consider the hackers trying to exploit a software flaw, like the 2017 Equifax hack, which exposed the personal information of 147 million people and resulted in $425 million fine to help people affected by the breach. To steal a file in a decentralized model, a malicious actor would need to compromise 30 different specific storage nodes out of thousands randomly distributed around the world, then separately obtain the encryption key for that file.
Storj’s Tardigrade platform is an open-source model. Partners provide their storage space to create the network. Ben Golub, Executive Chairman and Interim CEO at Storj Labs, said, “Our competitive advantage is that we compensate people fairly for their spare drive space.”
But would that be a risk?
Would allowing many different partners create a security concern – a different kind of software flaw?
Mr. Golub believes that their model assumes that some individuals on their network may act dishonestly. While this is a concern, the belief is many randomly distributed partners will work to support, stabilize and create a more secure system than offered by mainstream cloud competitors.
Storj lab claims, “By using client-side encryption by default and spreading file pieces across 80 or more uncorrelated nodes, the Tardigrade platform is more secure and private than legacy cloud storage solutions, giving users the confidence that their data cannot be compromised or mined.”
Centralized cloud storage models, like Amazon or Google, have dominated the storage industry. Barriers to entry are significant because of the large economies of scale needed to compete in a centralized model. While systems like Amazon’s S3 are resilient, secure, and widely available, Mr. Golub believes that a distributed cloud model is more reliable and cheaper to operate.
“We feel that the solution is not a new kind of license, but a new kind of cloud,” said John Gleeson, Storj Labs Vice President of Operations.
“While most cloud service providers charge a significant premium for providing cross-region support, files stored on Tardigrade are distributed across many regions by default, at no additional charge. Because any 30 of a file’s 80 pieces can be used to reconstitute a file, and since each of the 80 pieces is stored on statistically uncorrelated nodes (with separate power supplies, operators, equipment, and networks), the system is exceptionally resistant to outages or breaches, whether caused by natural disasters, human error, or malicious actors.”
From the press release, Storj’s beta period saw thousands of users and storage node operators worldwide. Tardigrade claims during this period, they never lost a file, maintained performance on par or better than S3, and delivered over 99.95 percent availability.
Mr. Golub also serves as an advisor at Mayfield, a global venture capital firm with over $2.7 billion under management. He was previously co-founder and CEO at Docker, the leader of the container and microservices movement. Before Docker, Ben was co-founder and CEO of Gluster, an open-source cloud storage platform that was acquired by Red Hat in 2011.
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